The Utah Jazz made the trip down to Oklahoma City earlier this month riding a 5 game winning streak, and this improved Thunder team really took it to them, winning, in Loud City, by a final score of 114-93. That game has triggered a downward spiral for the Jazz, who enter tonights game having lost 6 of their last 8 games, and 4 straight, a season high for the Jazz. One bright spot in that eight game stretch for Utah was a win over Minnesota, yes, you read that correctly, Minnesota. The Timberwolves have a 10-3 record in January, and one of those three losses came from the Utah Jazz back on January 20th.
The Thunder are looking to win 3 games in a row for the first time all season, and what better team to do that against than the team they beat to spark a 5-2 run. It won't be easy though as the last time the Thunder made the trip up to Utah, in early November, the Jazz absolutely pummeled the Thunder and lead by more than 30 points during the game. If you saw the Nets/Thunder game on Monday, it was a lot like that game, except the Thunder were the ones getting pounded instead of doing the pounding.
Andrei Kirilenko is listed as day to day (according to ESPN.com injury report) but probably won't play, and that's not great news for a Jazz team who are already without Carlos Boozer. I would expect the Jazz to look for Deron Williams and Paul Millsap to carry a bigger load offensively, but if the Jazz want to get the W, they are going to have to get Mehmut Okur involved early and often. They'll need to get him scoring points early and attacking the glass if they want to win this game. The Thunder have been dominating the boards all month, and with injuries taking their toll right now for the Jazz, they'll need their big man to step up big tonight.
It'll be interesting to see what Scott Brooks does with the rotation now that Mason is done for the year. Mason had worked his way into the starting lineup, typically at the 2 guard position, as RW0 continues to learn at the point. I'm guessing Chucky Atkins will probably get a lot of those minutes, and even before Mason went down against the Grizz, Chucky was out on the floor, and finished with 10 points. It would be nice to see another body who can draw some attention to the perimeter with his outside shooting abilities as well. I have to admit I was impressed with what I saw in Chucky the other night, he's a step quicker than I thought he'd be and he shot the ball really well. I think his appearance the other night earned him some minutes, but he also might struggle to get back on the floor depending on when/how well Kyle Weaver plays when he returns from an injury that lists him as "day-to-day."
If they Thunder can get this win tonight, they'll finish the month of January with an 8-6 record, which would be their first recorded winning month in franchise history. Yes, 7-7 is technically a "winning" record as well, but in my opinion, it shouldn't be recognized as a winning record, its neutral, at best. Anyway, not bad for a team that finished 2008 with a 4-29 record.
Who will win tonight's game?
This poll is closed
Oklahoma City Thunder (Road Team)
Utah Jazz (Home Team)